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      Rains Finally Come but Roof of Patriarchs' Cave Collapses

      Welcome rains are drenching Israel from the Golan to the Negev, but they also bought down a makeshift tarp roof at the Patriarchs’ Cave in Hevron.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 1/31/2011, 11:19 AM / Last Update: 1/31/2011, 11:40 AM

      Israel news photo courtesy of David Wilder

      Welcome rains are drenching Israel from the Golan to the Negev, but they also bought down a makeshift tarp roof at the Cave of the Patriarchs Cave (Ma’arat HaMachpelah) in Hevron.

      More than two inches of rain have fallen in the Golan Heights and the north during the current system, and the badly-needed rains spread to the northern Negev Sunday night and Monday, where more than an inch of rain has fallen. More rain is expected in the coming days.

      However, the rain and accompanying heavy winds caused the collapse of a canvas that has served for years as a roof over a prayer hall. Water began dripping from the canvas several weeks ago and forced the removal of the Torah, which was being read at the same moment.

      Sunday night’s storm left a gaping hole, and water poured on the heads of worshippers, according to Hevron spokesman David Wilder.

      “For about a decade Hevron community leaders have been trying to convince the ‘powers that be’ to remove the awning and replace it with a high-quality roof,” he said. “This covering, a poor attempt to protect visitors and worshipers from the elements, hasn’t been cleaned in years. A filthy, water-creased tent-like structure adorns the second holiest place to the Jewish people in all the world.”

      The Cave is the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca. and Jacob and Leah. It is the first site in the Bible whose purchase was recorded.  Hevron is one of the four “holy cities” in Jewish tradition, the others being Jerusalem, Tiberias and Tzfat.

      Previous archeological excavations have revealed 2,700-year-old seals with the word Hevron inscribed on them.

      Despite the significance of Hevron, politics have been a stumbling block to placing a respectable roof at the Cave, Wilder said, even though approximately 700,000 people visited the cave last year. The site includes several prayer halls used by Jews and Muslims.